Having four days off in between games allows the mind the wander. Fans of the Lakers are looking at the Spurs and Suns and wondering who the best match up for the conference finals is. We’re examining the eastern bracket and wondering if Boston can get by Cleveland and if anyone can get by Orlando. Thoughts drift to a rematch of last years Finals or revenge for 2008 or a Kobe/Lebron match up that would have media falling over each other grabbing for the best storyline. But that’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?
The fact is the Lakers are still playing the Jazz. And despite two pretty comfortable wins, sitting up 2-0 isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. If you need proof of that, go back a couple of weeks and look at games 3 and 4 of the Thunder series. Momentum can change jerseys rather quickly in this game, especially when you change venues and play the contests in a pretty hostile environment.
So, in an attempt to bring back our focus on the team from Utah, I thought I’d take a closer look at ways the Jazz can pull out a win in game 3. I mean, this is a must win for the Jazz (going down 3-0 is not an option) and coming back home you’d think this is their best chance to win a game and get back in this series. So why not shift our focus off what the Lakers need to do (since we’ve been covering that extensively and have the results of games 1 & 2 as templates) and move on to what the Jazz can do to take down the Lakers?
1). Get Deron Williams going. The one advantage the Jazz have in this series is Williams. He is a monster. However, in the first two games he’s been cumulatively average. He had a pretty good game 1 and a below average game 2. If the Jazz hope to win game 3, they need the Deron Williams from the Nuggets series. The guy that put up 33 and 14 in game 2 in Denver. The player that had 34 and 10 in game 5. Because without that type of effort, I’m unsure as to whether or not the Jazz can win a game. And yes, Williams has already admitted that the Lakers’ D is much tougher than Denver’s. But, he can’t concern himself with such matters. He needs to be in attack mode for the entire game and keep pushing the ball down the Lakers throats for every second he’s on the court. Plus, I think he needs to be a bit more selfish. Playing for Jerry Sloan has undoubtedly helped Deron’s career as the discipline and demanding nature of the coach can be a great thing for PG’s. However, sometimes I feel that Deron is too focused on doing the right thing; looking too much to get everyone involved. This is one series where if Deron decided he needed to go all “2006 Kobe”, I think he’d be justified. His big men, while putting up numbers, are overmatched in the paint and his wings are decent role players. In this series, Williams is the engine for success and he needs to start playing like it. He should be calling his number more often by running more P&R’s and isolating himself more at the top of the key. As I said before, he’s the one with the advantage this series. It’s up to him if the Jazz are going to survive.
2). Play more physical. I know that Phil Jackson has talked about the Jazz being aggressive going after the ball. In a timeout he called them “strippers and hackers” that were trying to get steals every time the Lakers exposed the ball. That said, where’s the trademarked Jazz pushing and shoving? Where are the hard fouls that make the Lakers question going into the paint? Obviously, being a Lakers fan, I don’t want to see dirty play take out one of the guys that I root for, but from the Jazz perspective the absence of one of their calling cards is a bit problematic. In the last game, Pau Gasol got in Boozer’s face and told him to “watch it”. Huh? Is this the bizzaro NBA? As has been repeated by everyone writing about this series, the Utah players aren’t going to get taller before the next game. So, if the Jazz hope to take control of the basket area they need to try something. Playing with some force would be the best place to start. I mean, how many times can the Jazz big men not step up in their rotations? I know Jerry Sloan rarely looks happy, but his team’s defensive effort in this series must be making him furious.
3). Just believe you can win. This has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or anything that you can “execute” on the court. But right now, it looks obvious that the Jazz don’t think they can actually beat the Lakers in this series. 15 straight losses at Staples surely has something to do with it. Losing the regular season series for the past 3 seasons and being eliminated from the playoffs in the past 2 doesn’t help either. But at this point, if the Jazz aren’t going to believe, they might as well just quit already. They need to change their body language and act like they know they’re a good enough team to win. I mean, did you see the frustration and defeated look on Boozer’s face after he was blocked on consecutive shot attempts by LO and Gasol?
Look, I’d be a happy guy if the Jazz didn’t do any of these things and resigned themselves to losing. I want the Lakers to win and for this series to be over as quickly as possible so the nicked up Lakers get as much rest as possible in between this series and the next. That said, if Utah is going to win, these are the keys for them, in my opinion. Getting Kirilenko back will help. Playing at home will help. But those things will only go so far. I know that most Lakers fans are confident about this series, but what do you think? How can the Jazz win some games in this series?